Hiram College

TREE House classroom

Hiram College will celebrate yet another stride in sustainability as the environmentally friendly TREE (Teaching, Research and Environment Engagement) House officially opens its doors this month.


A ribbon cutting will take place from 4-6 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2014, at the TREE House (11745 Dean St., Hiram, Ohio).

The 1901 house was transformed into an educational model of energy efficiency and home for the Environmental Studies Department after the idea was conceived three years ago. In 2011, the Hiram College Environmental Studies Department began creating a vision for the project when it received a major grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation. Design began in spring 2013, and they broke ground later that year in August. The project has been funded by this grant and a series of other grants and private donations.

Unlike other area “smart houses,” the TREE House has focused on budget-friendly renovations – ones that any homeowner interested in sustainability and energy efficiency can learn from and mimic.

TREE House Foundation

“The project is deliberately set up to be highly public,” said Debbie Kasper, associate professor of environmental studies and project manager. “We want to make what we learn through this process – about the costs and benefits of different products and energy-saving strategies – available to the community. In sharing our research and experience, we hope to be a useful resource for homeowners on a budget, hoping to make some home improvements of their own.

The home features, among others, the following sustainable renovations:

  • LED lighting
  • An insulated concrete form foundation
  • Rigid polyiso insulating foam on the exterior
  • Dense packed blown-in cellulose in the wall cavities
  • Radiant floor heat
  • Fiber cement siding

Many of the normally invisible features of a house, such as the HVAC ductwork and wall insulation, will be exposed here.

TREE House walls

“It’s important to make the invisible, visible,” Kasper said, “because we can’t make conscious choices about things we’re not aware of.”

Hiram College students and professors have been involved with every step of the process, working side-by-side with construction managers and contractors. Kasper praised the team of professionals and all of the Hiram students, faculty, staff, and community members who have lent their time and talents along the way.

The project, she said, has been a true testament to hands-on learning for all involved.

Learn more about sustainability at Hiram College.